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DIT researcher awarded Science Foundation Ireland funding

Posted: 12 May, 2017

Dr Paula Bourke, a researcher in the Environmental Sustainability and Health Institute at DIT, was awarded funding from Science Foundation Ireland for a research project on food sustainability and safety.

SFI Funding - Paula Bourke BBSRC

The EnvironSafe project will research cold plasma technologies to provide solutions for sustainability and safety in food production.

The project is responding to a need for alternative technologies in food processing that can deliver safe and nutritious foods by combatting microbiological pathogens, toxins and allergens. It also has the potential to help address the serious issue of food wastage: one third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted each year. Microbiological spoilage is a major contributor to food waste along the food chain. 

The project aims to identify whether it is possible to replace existing technologies and chemicals used in food processing environments with cold plasma technologies, thus potentially providing the food industry with options to develop new processes and even new food products. Cold Plasma is the fourth state of matter which is generated by supplying energy to a gas to release a wide range of active components. Some chemicals that played an important part in keeping food environments clean are no longer permitted or are only permitted in very small concentrations in response to new safety regulations. There is a need for alternative solutions to reduce risks across the food chain, to keep foods safe and to preserve them. 

Dr Bourke stated that she is very excited to be collaborating with researchers in Queen's University Belfast on this project. She also explained that the project is underpinned by her work on developing an All-Island Plasma Applications Network funded through the Irish Research Council.

DIT is active in the area of cold plasma research at the Environmental Sustainability and Health Institute, exploring the potential of plasma to tackle biological and chemical contaminants across food, water and environmental situations as well as within cancer treatment and infection control.

This project is funded under a joint funding scheme between Science Foundation Ireland and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in the UK. Researchers from the UK and Ireland will work together on research and technology development addressing key global challenges in biosciences for health, agriculture, food security, industrial biotechnology and bioenergy.